Preston North End manager Alex Neil is looking forward to taking his side back to one of his former stomping grounds, when the Lilywhites face Barnsley at Oakwell on Tuesday night.
The PNE boss spent four years with the Tykes in the early noughties, playing more than 130 games for the South Yorkshire side. He goes back looking for back-to-back wins from his team, but is expecting a very tough game, having been very impressed with what Barnsley have shown since their chance of manager.
“It is an opportunity for us to go and try and put some more points on the board,” the gaffer told iFollow PNE. “The last win I am hoping will really spur us on and kick us on.
“We have picked up three points, from three draws, in our last three away games and we really want to turn one of those draws into a win and this would be a really good time to do it.
“That would lead us into the end of the January window and we will see where we go from there, because February is a massive month for us. We have seven games in that month, but this is going to be a really tough match.”
The change at the helm of the Reds has seen a run of good performances: “They are a dangerous team and they are a good team,” continued Alex. “[Gerhard Struber] has done really well since his went in there.
“In terms of stats, they have shown up remarkably well since he went in there and he has made a significant difference to them. Speaking to some of the other clubs and managers, a few of them have mentioned what a good team Barnsley are.
“They are hard to beat and their draw against West Brom typified that. West Brom are a good side and they have struggled twice against Barnsley, failing to beat them.
“At home Barnsley are always very good. I saw them against Reading at Oakwell and against Derby earlier on this season and in both games they were unfortunate that they didn’t win.
“Their supporters will recognise that they have a very young group and when you have got a young team you really need that backing. It is so important that the fans get right behind them and try and will them over the line, because you really do get that extra ten per cent out of them.
“That enthusiasm of being a young player and hearing that roar of the crowd when you have done something good can help them. Their home form is going to be key to them staying in the league and at the moment they are making a good fist of it.”
They have done it of late without top scorer Cauley Woodrow, but it is other players who have stood out for the manager: “Cauley is a good player, but Connor Chaplin off one side and Brown off the other have been brilliant for them.
“They are both very lively, very quick, want to work down the sides of you and they have really stepped up to the plate for them. They are not reliant on any one player.
“They have some really exciting young players – particularly at the top end of the pitch and we need to make sure we keep them as quiet as possible.”
In terms of team selection, Ben Pearson could be back in the reckoning and with ten days before the next game after the trip to Oakwell, the manager’s thoughts on his team are not too concerned with this being the second game in four days.
“I am not as concerned about the accumulated fatigue, because we don’t have another game to come a few days after this one. It means that won’t be a concern for me or alter my thinking too much.
“I don’t know if Ben is going to be available, but even if not, we have other players who can come in and do that job and the lads played really well on Saturday, so I have to take that into account.
“I’d much rather make hard decisions when we are winning. The last win was a big one for us and we need to try and go build on that, so this is going to be a crucial game for us,” he added.